GREENSBORO — People are constantly asking Glenn Dobrogosz what’s next.
They’ll compliment the latest exhibits at the Greensboro Science Center, look in awe at the latest additions. But almost always, he’ll hear, “What’s next?”
What’s next is a slew of projects that include a new entrance, STEM center and carousel. A master plan introduced more than a decade ago will culminate with Revolution Ridge: Life on the Edge, which will double the size of the Science Center’s zoo.
And next year Dobrogosz, the institution’s chief executive officer, plans to unveil a master plan for the next decade.
“We have to always have that ‘what’s next’ in the pipeline,” he said. “We’re always thinking about what are the next trends in the world, what is every generation fascinated by? We found dinosaurs to be huge. Human health, animals, conservation, space exploration. So we pick these niches and expand upon them in innovative ways.”
Over the past decade, the Science Center has engaged in a flurry of renovation and expansion, most notably the opening in 2013 of what is now the Wiseman Aquarium — a 5,000-square-foot addition to which opened last year.
The Science Center is also a central player in the development of the Battleground Parks District, an effort to connect several natural and historical attractions along Battleground Avenue and Lawndale Drive.
“That’ll be like having our own Central Park in the middle of Greensboro,” said Science Center Chairwoman Susan Wiseman (after whose family the aquarium was named). “It’ll be a great source for education, for entertainment. It’ll be amazing for the city to have.”
Dobrogosz hopes to break ground on Revolution Ridge sometime in the fall, and have it completed by 2020. He said an animal hospital will probably go up first, to care for some of the rare species coming in.
The project, details of which were announced last year, will expand the zoo by 11 acres, and include a conservation lab, amphitheater and Prehistoric Path where visitors can hobnob with dinosaurs.
Among the new animals taking up residence will be a pygmy hippo, red panda and cassowary — a 6-foot-tall creature that’s sometimes referred to as the most dangerous bird in the world, and that Dobrogosz likens to “a modern-day velociraptor.”
The zoo is also looking to replace its tigers, Kisa, who died in 2016, and Axl, who died last year, and participate in a Malayan breeding program.
Jessica Hoffman, general curator at the Science Center, said a new holding building will go up, as well as a cubbing yard built to accommodate mothers with offspring. The zoo, Hoffman said, is looking to get a pair of Malayan juvenile tiger brothers, which tend to do well together, and later acquire a female.
“We’d also like to do some renovations to the actual exhibit itself,” she said. “The exhibit is in decent shape right now. It’s good size, it has good viewing, good fencing. But we’d like to come in and do some more with the water features, maybe have some more play structures, especially if we do get some younger animals in. These are smaller species of tiger than our previous tigers. But they’re very visually dynamic.”
A survey for the additions has been completed and Dobrogosz said he hopes work will begin this summer, pending a variance from the city that will allow construction near a fence line.
“The tigers, they were iconic,” he said. “We had traffic jams on Lawndale. People would be driving, and they’d see a giant orange animal. Also, we want to tell the story of how tigers are sadly being decimated in the wild. They’re one of the most beautiful animals in nature.”
Elsewhere in the complex, work will soon commence on the Science Advancement through Innovative Learning STEM Center.
“In that space we’ll focus more on physics, chemistry, and engineering, the foundational aspects of science,” Dobrogosz said. “We want to bring STEM to all age groups, whether it’s advancement of our robotics classes for 5 and 6 year olds, or science cafes for adults, where our community can learn about science. For example, if we have a professor at one of our local universities, who’s doing amazing research, we want that person to come out and tell their story.”
Classrooms inside will have screens and projections all around and provide a sort of immersive experience.
“Imagine the topic of the day happens to be the human cell,” he said. “And all of a sudden you’re surrounded by this imagery. You’re inside that cell. Or you’re teaching about space exploration — all of a sudden you’re on Mars. You’re teaching families and kids in more intensive ways.”
Work on the interiors is set to begin this summer, and on the outside in the fall. That exterior work will be done in conjunction with an effort to create a more uniform and inviting look for the Science Center’s entrance. Renderings show a pair of rounded structures with a wavy gray and yellow color scheme.
“Our front entrance right now looks like five different architectural styles all smashed together,” Dobrogosz said. “It doesn’t look modern, it doesn’t look innovative. So we’re changing that. It’ll add continuity. And you walk up to it and you’ll see a modern Science Center.”
Also going up nearby will be a carousel donated by the Rotary Club of Greensboro. It will begin operation this fall, and feature figures unique to the Gate City, like a grasshopper in a Greensboro Grasshoppers jersey.
The projects at the Science Center are being paid for with a capital campaign that has thus far raised more than $10 million from about 66,000 donors, as well as with funds leftover from a $20 million bond approved by Greensboro voters in 2009.
“That tells us this community wants a science destination,” Dobrogosz said. “I find myself having discussions and doing tours with potential donors several times a week. There’s a lot of passion for what we’re doing.”
Last year the Science Center attracted a record 434,000 visitors, up 6 percent from the year before. Dobrogosz said he expects attendance to soon reach 500,000 a year.
“And they’re coming from everywhere,” he said. “We’ve had visitors from every county in North Carolina. So we know the word is spreading. As we speak, we have 125 new parking spots being paved, because we’ve gotten to the point where people are coming here and can’t find a parking space. And we’re also looking at trams. We’ll probably have trams running at some point.”